PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After years of having an understaffed traffic division, the Portland Police Bureau announced that the traffic division will return and what this will look like for motorists in the Rose City.
PPB Chief Chuck Lovell made the announcement at a 1 p.m. press conference.
“In 2021, I made the difficult decision to have our traffic officers go to the precincts in order to answer 911 emergency calls for service,” said Chief Lovell. “Though we are still deeply challenged with our staffing, we have seen the rise in fatal crashes, and have heard from our community that they want and expect traffic enforcement to help keep our roadways safe for all users. In addition, our new officers have not been able to do a rotation through traffic to learn these valuable skills.”
Lovell also said that PPB has 97 new recruits being trained.
The announcement comes right before the Rose Festival when they’ll need more enforcement on the roads.
Chief Lovell says the division will be smaller than it was, with 10 motorcycle officers, two officers in cars and two sergeants — all of whom will work full-time.
When he was asked about why the division was cut two years ago, Loved said that it was a staffing decision.
“At that time, we were really struggling to answer calls for service in a timely fashion. We didn’t disband traffic but we folded the officers into patrol,” he said. “We felt this was the right time to make this move.”
Sgt. Ty Engstrom joined the traffic division in 2008 when there were 35 motorcycles and about 10-12 cars permanently assigned to traffic enforcement.
But in November 2022, Engstrom said, “Now, we have me and one other officer.“
At that time, he said the traffic division — made up of the Major Crash Team and the Traffic Investigation Unit — had only 4 investigators. “We don’t have the resources to investigate all the hit-and-runs that come through — we’ve got so many hit-and-runs that come through on a daily basis,” he said.
In late December, PPB said there were 31 pedestrian deaths in 2022, a 70-year high. The bureau added that the city also recorded 66 traffic fatalities in 2022.
“We’re super excited to bring back a portion of the division,” he said. “We’re looking for dangerous driving behavior, not who’s behind the wheel.”